EPA Relaxes Monitoring Requirements and Enforcement Activity for Administrative Violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced a sweeping freeze on enforcing administrative violations of environmental regulations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  The EPA’s memorandum, titled “COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program” was distributed by Susan Bodine, the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. In it, she details the consequences of the pandemic, which may constrain the ability of regulated corporations to perform routine compliance monitoring and details specific enforcement policy changes for facility operations, public water systems, and other critical infrastructure.

In short, the EPA has stated it does “not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance.”  While some examples were provided, no exact policy for what would be required to demonstrate that COVID-19 was the cause of the non-compliance has been given.  The policy is retroactive and applies from March 13, 2020 forward, with no set end date. Former Obama Administration EPA Enforcement Chief Cynthia Giles has criticized the memo and called it unprecedented and “an abdication of EPA’s responsibility to protect the public.”

The EPA’s memorandum can be found here.

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